Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Italian Chicken Soup

This soup is so easy that you can prepare it in less than an hour, yet it tastes like it's been simmering half the day. It doesn't freeze well (zucchini gets too mushy), but with speed cooking like this, it isn't necessary to make it ahead. First I'll give you the recipe; then I'll put my modifications at the end...

Serves 4.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 9-ounce package fresh cheese ravioli
1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, basil, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper and sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth. Cover pot and simmer 10 minutes. Add zucchini and carrot. Cover and simmer until carrot is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high and bring soup to boil. Add ravioli and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Serve, passing cheese separately.

Now for my notes... I don't put the garlic in until just before the peppers, onion and spices are done. I don't want to take the chances that the garlic will burn or overcook. I'll have to write a whole post on garlic sometime. Finally, I use fresh tortellini instead of ravioli. It's more bite size. Pipsqueak doesn't like cheese filled pastas, so I used a chicken and prosciutto filled tortellini.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More Less Stuff

I'm still in clean out mode, and more stuff went out the door this weekend.

Saturday was our area's Electronics Day. Once a year, they have a collection spot for about seven area towns to get rid of anything with a cord. Sweetie is a computer consultant for small businesses, so we had enough components, pieces and parts that some areas of our basement looked like a computer chop shop. We loaded my car with about 6 or 8 CPUs, a monitor, a VCR, a couple of laptops, a half a dozen keyboards and two big boxes of parts, mice, speakers, and cables. When I got to the collection area, the cars were 20 or 30 deep, but it was organized an efficient. About 20 minutes after arrival, my car was cleared out, and they only charged me $40.

It's amazing what you can fit in a car when you put your mind to it.

After that, we were off to the thrift store. I had two garbage bags, a box and a large mirror to remove from my life. Of course, I had to shop the thrift store afterward. I fondly refer to this as the "drop and shop". Since Pipsqueak was with me, she went straight for the stuffed animals. She already has so many stuffed animals that almost all species are represented, so I get a little Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest". "No more stuffed animals!!" minus the beating, of course. I had to admit they had some nice ones that day, so I thought maybe I could use this to my advantage. I told her that for every two stuffed animals she wanted, she had to tell me three at home that she would get rid of, so I did make progress there. She chose four "new" ones, and there are now six in bag ready for the next drop off.

Sweetie put some shelves in our living room closet this weekend, so today I'm organizing and finding more things to get rid off. My yarn stash is in there. I think I need the Joan Crawford treatment myself. "No more yarn!"

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Public Service Announcement

My sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer today. She will likely undergo a mastectomy. Almost 11 months ago, I found a lump in one of my breasts. It was a tense and fear frought week before I was told that it was a benign cyst.

Ladies, get your mammograms annually and do your self-exams monthly. Remind your female friends and relatives to do the same.

In 2004 (the most recent year numbers are available),
186,772 women and 1,815 men were diagnosed with breast cancer*†
40,954 women and 362 men died from breast cancer*†

†Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 2004 Incidence and Mortality. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2007.

*Note: Incidence counts cover approximately 98% of the U.S. population and death counts cover 100% of the U.S. population. Use caution in comparing incidence and death counts.
Top 10 Causes of Death for Women in the United States‡

Breast cancer is the sixth leading cause of death in women of all ages. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

My SIL has a positive attitude and an iron will. I feel certain that she will beat this thing, but the next few months will probably be the hardest of her life.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Simply De-vine (a snake story)

I know some people are terrified of snakes. They don't bother me unless they sneak up on me, but then the fright I feel is about the same as finding a family member standing behind me when I thought I was alone. The fact that there are no poisonous snake in our area does a lot to allay any fear I might have.

A few days ago, I was getting the car loaded with all the stuff for the tag sale. I left the cellar door open since I was in and out. During one of my trips back inside, I saw a garter snake in front of the door lifting his little head up for a peek inside. He was between 2 and 3 feet long and about as thick as a broom stick. That's about maximum size for a garter snake. When he saw me coming, he slithered off into the stone wall next to the door. About ten minutes later he was back... persistent little guy... but this time he slithered into the wood pile on the other side of the door. At this point, I figured I'd better close the door. I didn't want any surprises in my laundry basket come wash day.

On Sunday, I decided to tackle the vines that took over the stone wall next to our cellar door. I don't know what these vines are, but they're as invasive as they come and they have little seed pods that look pea pods. They were no match for me and my ratchet pruners. (I should have taken before and after pictures, so you could be duly impressed with my efforts.) After some of the ferocious foliage was trimmed back, I caught sight of a piece of snake skin near one of the rocks. The skin disappeared behind the rock, which was about a foot long, and continued on the other side. I heaved the rock forward a bit and excavated as much of the skin as I could. It's thinner than paper and it broke up a lot. Some of it adhered to the rock; I think he used the rock as an exfoliant. Based on the intact skin length, I think it belonged to my potential cellar dweller. It was a popular show and tell for Pipsqueak this week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Flowers

I love sunflowers. They're so sunny and happy and large. When everything else is the garden is looking all depressingly shriveled and brown, they stand up tall and say, "Look at me! Aren't I pretty? I don't let a little chilly air bother me."

I planted over 100 sunflower seeds behind my vegegable garden this spring. Only 17 or so germinated. It might have been that year-old seed I used or some anti-germinating weather phenomenon. Next year, I'll start them in trays inside. I want a little slice of Italy back there. A few years ago, we visited Tuscany and saw acres of sunflower fields... happiness and cheer as far as the eye could see.
So here is a little happiness for you... no side effects... no unpleasant aftertaste.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Less Stuff

This Saturday was our town's first annual town-wide tag sale, and I was one of the ten families selling. The space was only $10, but only if I made $10. I had so many big things to get rid of: strollers, high chair, child's easel and more. I do some selling on ebay, but big things are too much hassle to find a box and pack and they're too expensive to ship. My car (a Toyota Matrix) was packed like clowns in VW bug.

The day was glorious... sunny, low 70s and a light breeze. I got to sit and people watch for four hours (one of my favorite past times), and I made $120. As much as I love the thrill of an ebay auction ending, it's also pretty exciting to have someone put actual cash in my hand. I was tempted by a couple of things being sold in other spaces, but I resisted. The day was about unloading.

In the last hour, I looked at my remaining merchandise and considered what stuff I didn't want to go back in the door of my house again. At closing time, I was mentally prepared for scrupulous packing... a box to go home and a box for thrift donation. I drove directly to the thrift store and dropped off half the stuff in my car. I'm giving myself until the end of the year to sell the remaining things, or they'll be donated too.

Now I'm in cleaning out mood. I spent yesterday going through our cellar. I only got to the laundry and entry areas, but a lot of stuff went in the trash can or a box for the thrift store. Tonight, I'll get some stuff listed on ebay. It feels good to be ridding my life and home of unneeded stuff

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meet Monty

Hi, I'm Monty, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
The nice lady that writes this blog belongs to me. She's been busy the past couple of days getting ready for a tag sale. I hope she doesn't take any of my toys; some of them still have stuffing to rip out. Anyway, I thought I'd help her out. After all, she does a lot of stuff for me... feeds me, brushes out my loose fur, scratches all those hard to reach areas and talks to me in a sweet voice. She does a few things I don't like, too... baths (we dogs like eau de deer scat on our necks), and that angry voice and finger finger wagging I get when I do something that's perfectly acceptable in dog world, but apparently a faux pas in the human world. The worst thing she does is leaving in the car and not taking me. I know I must be missing a fun time, and I love riding in the car.

There a small person that belongs to me too. I like to play tug of war with her, but I worry about her. She's pretty small compared to the other humans here, so I follow her around a lot when she's home just to make sure she's okay. She did choose me over my seven brothers and sister, so I feel like I owe her something. I usually sleep on her floor for awhile when she goes to bed, since I know she doesn't like being alone upstairs. As soon as I hear something in the kitchen though, I down there. There could be an ice cream bowl to be cleaned or some other yummy offering.

I love food. They feed me some great food here, but the stuff those humans eat is amazing. I love it all... meat, fruit, vegetables. I lay under the table when they eat because that small person drops stuff once in awhile. I love doing the pre-rinse of the stuff in the dishwasher. It's like a mini-buffet.

Oh, and there's a cool guy that lives here. He growls at me and then we wrestle, or I do the duck and dance while he tries to catch me. He's the pack leader, so I listen to him most of all.

So, I spend my days sleeping, eating, visiting my neighbor dogs (Oliver and Ruby), ripping up my toys, and following that nice lady around the house. Oh, I like to herd birds and helicopters too, but I haven't caught one yet. I'm a herding breed, and since no sheep or cows live here, I herd what's available.

Wasn't I a cute puppy? I'm 1 1/2 dog years now, but I'm still pretty cute. I must be since they look at me and say, "Awwww!" a lot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Horsing Around and Thrifting

On Saturday morning, Pipsqueak was in another horse show. Unlike last time, I felt cool as a cucumber and didn't get all jittery about the outcome. I took photos and video, enjoyed her riding style, and swelled with pride when she took first and second place ribbons in her two lead-line events.

My jitters came earlier when she informed me over breakfast that she wanted to arrive early so I could braid her pony's tail. Okay, I'm no horsewoman, and I'm not that comfortable around animals that I can't comfortably carry. Standing behind a horse (even a small one), fiddling with his tail didn't seem like a safe activity, but not wanting to disappoint her or cast my fears upon my child, I smiled and said, "Sure, Pip. I'll go find a ribbon for it."

When we arrived, we were told that her leader wasn't there yet, and I was asked if I would be comfortable getting the pony out of the stall and putting him on the cross ties so Pip could start grooming him. That's like asking Jesus if he was going to be comfortable on the cross, but again, I rose to the challenge. Just putting his halter on was like a puzzle. Horses' tack has way too many flaps, straps and buckles. This pony couldn't have been more cooperative, unless he talked and told me what to do. I kind of held the harness and he just slipped his head in, and the tail braiding went well, although it was not my finest braiding work. I was just thankful it was done and I didn't have any black and blues in the shape of hooves.

By then, the leader was there. She helped us tack up and took Pip into the ring to warm up. Once around the ring, and it was obvious that this woman was having a breathing problem. I found out later that she has asthma. She asked me to hold the lead line while she spoke with someone. Pip hadn't ridden in three weeks, and she wanted to practice posting, so I smiled in fake confident manner, "Okay. Let's go, " and I started leading the horse around the ring. I walked; he walked. I ran; he trotted. I couldn't believe it! I was controlling a horse! Just when I was getting comfortable with it, a replacement leader came and took over for me. I feel like we both won that day, and I was proud of myself and Pip. Not to mention what a beautiful morning it was. I loved how the fog rolled around making it look very English countryside.

Just down the road from the horse farm, I saw a sign for barn sale. I saw it on the way in, but with my braiding challenge before me I didn't think I had the time or mental state to stop and shop. On the way home with all the happy endorphins flowing from conquering my own personal fear factor, I couldn't resist. There was some jewelry that I liked, but it was priced too high. I was almost ready to leave empty handed when I saw this fabric from Schumacher's Country French II collection.
There were 5 yards for $2, and they are colors that I tend to use in our house a lot. At first I asked myself, "Self, what are you going to make with this? What do you need with more fabric?" I started to turn away, but then I said, "Shut up, self. It's only $2, and it's beautiful." I drove away a happy woman.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kasalia (Kale Soup)

On days that Pipsqueak has soccer, I don't get home until 6:30. I want to have dinner on the table as quickly as possible so I have to plan ahead. Today I made a family favorite, Kale Soup. We call it Kasalia, but it's just a made up word that's stuck. Here's the recipe:

1 pound italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c. red wine
1 48 oz. can beef broth
1 48 oz. can chicken broth
1-2 heads kale, cleaned, chopped into strips
6 bay leaves
2 cups rice, precooked
cayenne and black pepper to taste
grated cheddar cheese
Fry sausage and onion in a stock pot, chopping up sausage well until sausage is browned and onion is soft. Add red wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer;
add kale, bay leaves and wine to stock. Simmer until kale is soft, maybe 15-30 mins.
Remove bay leaves, serve in bowls over a scoop of cooked rice and top with grated cheddar.
Freezes well, good for quick midwinter meals.

I have to give credit to my sister-in-law for this recipe. She had a soup in a Boston restaurant that she loved and this is what she came up with to replicate it. It couldn't be any more simple or delicious. After I had been making this for years, she made it for us last winter and I saw her putting in a can of tomatoes. "You never told me there was tomatoes in that soup, " I declared. "Oh, I forgot," was her response. I didn't really matter; it's good both ways.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tunbridge World's Fair

What a weekend! It might take me all week to write about it. I know it will take me all week to recover from it.

Friday night, we braved the drizzle and went to the Tunbridge World's Fair. It's out in the sticks... right in the middle of farm country. It's so far off a major highway that you'd be sure you were lost if you didn't know where you were going.

They have everything that a good country fair should have... prize winning produce,
livestock (isn't that the cutest pig pile ever?),
greasy fair food, tractor pulls, ox pulls, pig races, games and a midway. Some nights they have a deal where you buy a $12 wrist band, and you can ride all the rides as many times as you want. Pipsqueak got our money's worth. She's was up and down the giant slide so many times, it made me dizzy.
When I first saw this ride, I thought they were little capsules, but they were supposed to be bobsleds. I think they should rename the ride "Heartburn" and the kiddies ride the little purple Zantac pills to destroy the acid.
At the end of our evening we were tired and a little damp around the edges, but my cheeks hurt from smiling so that's a pretty good gauge of a good time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The fat lady sang...

and summer is officially over. We got a light, spotty frost last night. The weather forcast warned of the event, so I picked everything remaining in the garden yesterday except the pumpkins. It wasn't cold enough to be a killing frost though. I donned socks and shoes today instead of slipping on flip flops as I walked out the door (this was after going out barefoot to take the photo - brrrr!). Before I know it, we'll be loading wood into the stove and looking for mittens.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fine Cooking

Yesterday there was something delightful in my mailbox... something delectible... something delicious....
I've read many cooking magazines over the years, but this is by far my favorite. It's like porn for foodies... interesting articles and so beautifully photographed that it'll make your mouth water. Before reading it, I was put off by the title. Fine Cooking made me think "complicated" and "time consuming", but most of the recipes are pretty easy. I usually find five or more recipes per issue that I want to try, and only once have I made something that I wasn't interested in making again.

Here's a little peek...

... can't you almost smell the turkey coming out of the oven?

You can be sure this Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart will be on my holiday table this year. Of course, I'll have to make it two or three times before the holidays just to make sure I can make it perfectly. And I'm not too sure about the almonds. I might have to make one with walnuts and one with pecans. The possibilities (and the calories) are endless.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Creamy Tomato-Basil Cheddar Soup

I was unhappy with my cherry tomatoes this year. I tried a different variety, and they seemed too big and soft. I like a small cherry tomato that snaps and squirts when I bite it. So what to do with all these cherry tomatoes....

I threw in a few standard tomatoes (Jet Star - my favorite) to make four pounds, and I was ready to make Creamy Tomato-Basil Cheddar Soup.

First, to get the skins off, just dunk them in boiling water for about a minute. See how the skins just slide off. I thought skinning all those little guys was goint to be a daunting task, but I was done in about ten minutes.
Then, in a large stock pot, heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high heat and add 1 medium chopped onion. Cook and stir occasionally, until softened.
Tie 6 sprigs of basil together with kitchen twine. Put peeled tomatoes in the pot with the onion, 4 cups chicken stock, 1 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper and the basil. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium low and let simmer about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to break up tomatoes. Let cool. Remove basil sprigs.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches until very smooth. (Now, if you're inpatient and don't let it cool completely, you've got to do it in very small batches - like 1 cup, and hold the lid down very tightly. I did this with carrot soup once; it blew the top of the blender, and the kitchen and I were covered in carrot soup. It's a mistake you'll only make once, but once is one time too many.)

Strain the soup into a clean pot, add about 2 oz. of sharp chedder cheese, shredded, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup heavy cream and 2 t balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the hot soup into bowls and garnish with slice basil. Makes about 8 cups.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival

On Saturday, Pipsqueak and I went to the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival in Essex Junction. I've been going for the past four years and Pipsqueak has joined me the last two. We enjoy it for the same reasons: seeing and touching the animals, and touching all that soft yarn and fiber. I certainly don't go to buy anything since my stash will probably outlive me, but I go to get inspiration (which usually does result in a purchase).
We started the day with a free kid workshop, which involved stuffing wool roving in a grape vine ball. Roving is washed and sometimes dyed fleece. The balls can be hung on a Christmas tree, or hung from a branch outside so birds can pick fleece from it for their nests.

Pipsqueak made friends with a llama. This one had just done an obstacle course. I love llamas. They have beautiful eyes, and the sweetest hum. Their coat is the softest thing I've ever felt. It really makes me want to snuggle them.

I was trying to take a photo of baby Diego and his mom, but Belle kept sticking her snout in my shot until I gave up and included her. Belle's owner says she knows a camera when she sees one. Llamas are so smart.

How about this purple goat?! I've never heard of dying the fleece while it's still on the animal. She wasn't being a cooperative model by turning her backside to me. I hope she wasn't humiliated by her purpleness.

We watched a little sheep herding. Border collies are amazing to watch. The herding instinct is so strong, and they obviously love their work. A friend of ours owns and trains them. A few weeks ago, she came to visit us with six of her dogs. They are so well trained that it was a pleasure having them here.
There was a sheep shearing demonstration. The sheep may look relaxed, but it's actually playing dead along the lines of, "If you think I'm already dead, maybe you won't try to eat me."

Pipsqueak got to try her hand at spinning and succeeded at making some nice lumpy yarn, which is no worse than I could do. I marvel at these spinners making fine even yarn.

My favorite vendor (and the one that got all my money) was the Bagsmith. First I tried these size 50 knitting needles that were 20 inches long and used six strands of yarn. They also have 40 inch long needles. You can knit multi-strands of yarn or roving. They make some beautiful rugs and wall hangings, which I hope to try someday. I bought a little purse kit and a french doll kit. They were evil temptresses with all their beautiful purse kits, embellishments, silk cocoons and storage units.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thrift Therapy

I'm just home from a morning of thrifting, and I feel absolutely giddy. So much for the slump... I've had thift tonic, and I'm better now.

I'm not sure if I mentioned that there are five thrift stores within a half hour of my house. I haven't explored further afield, but who needs more than five anyway? It took me most of the morning to shop two of them.

First I un-thrifted. I had the back of the car loaded with stuff to drop off at the thrift store. I love getting rid of stuff too. We have too much stuff (doesn't everybody?), so when I can move out some things that clearly aren't being used or loved anymore, it makes me happy.

There were some good deals: pink tags were half price, as well as short sleeve shirts, capris and shorts. So here's the booty I plundered today...

... some pretty clothes for Pipsqueak. The dark blue top is velour with a faux fur collar and cuffs and it's American Girl. The olive green top is a little more "hip" than "little girl", but she's starting to show interest in those styles. At 83 cents, I thought I could indulge.

These are all GAP. I love GAP clothes, but I don't like to pay GAP prices. The sweater is so soft and was only $1.60.

I just had to get rid of my favorite sun dress. It had elastic smocking in the back which was giving out, so it sagged and the shoulders wouldn't stay up. Finding this pretty sundress cushioned the blow. I love all the shades of green. Green is my new black. The shirt is from Talbots for $1.80, and the capris are from Banana Republic for $2.40. I wasn't sure about the brick red color, but it's time I got out of my khaki and denim bottomed rut.

Then we move on to the housewares and accessories departments...

the little black embroidered case is so pretty. I'm going to save it until Christmas for Pipsqueak and put a couple of handmade necklaces in it. I can also wear the purple scarf as a bohemian belt since I have such a tiny waist >cough, cough<. The truth is the scarf is really long. I've been collecting some narrow necked bottles to make beaded reed diffusers as Christmas presents. I'm not sure if the blue round box will be for me or Pipsqueak, but it was too pretty to pass up at 75 cents. The clothespins are for making Clothespin Cuties (more on that another time). The napkin fabric reminded me of Waverly, but there were no tags. A couple of weeks ago, Sweetie broke our only spreader and cut his finger so deeply I thought he might need stitches (he didn't). I thought I would increase our deadly kitchen gadgets four-fold.
In case you thought I didn't get anything for Sweetie, I did. These two candle lanterns are for the solarium he's building. (I'll post an entry about that soon.) I hope he likes them. He has definite opinions about decorating and fashion. He's not one of those guys that shrugs his shoulders and says, "If you like it, it's fine." Most of the time, I'm glad for his opinions. If he doesn't like them. I'm sure I can re-sell them.

I was tempted by other things like silver plated wine goblets at $1.12 each (I've already got enough silver to polish.), one of those retro bead dangly things for doorways (Pipsqueak is still a little young for it, and a few other bits and bobs. I do practise a little restraint.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Latest Sandwich Creation

I love creating sandwiches. Using interesting and sometimes unusual ingredients can make them go from hum-drum to yum-yum.

Today I made a Bistro Sandwich. Start with a baguette cut into sections (4-6" long depending on your appetite) and split. On the lower half, spread Dijon mustard and mayo on the top half. Layer the following, starting at the bottom:
  • thinly sliced bistro-style ham (pricey, but soooo good),
  • thinly sliced shallots (not too many... intense flavor),
  • sliced green pepper (I put it in almost all sandwiches... adds a nice crunch),
  • sliced American cheese (I would have used Brie if I had it),
  • arugula,
  • and red leaf lettuce.

Other than bread, there are three essential elements to a sandwich: flavor, texture and moisture. Flavor is achieved by harmoniously combining ingredients; this one uses ingredients often used in French cuisine. Texture is the crunch; other than green pepper, you could use red pepper, iceberg lettuce, cucumber, etc. Moisture is created by condiments or sauces.

Create sandwiches of your own, or make mine. I'll feature some other sandwich creations here periodically.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

These Are a Few of My Favorite Blogs

I feel uninspired today. I think I'm fighting a cold that Pipsqueak has been suffering from for a week, and maybe I just need to get to bed earlier. Usually my best ideas come to me in the shower, but today the only things that came to me was that I'm running low on shower gel, and I should really change the blade in my razor. It's pretty hard to write a blog entry about that (even though it looks like I'm doing just that).

No, today, I'm going to share a few of my favorite blogs with you. But wait! Don't you be leaving me just 'cause theirs are better. They've been doing it longer than me. Give a girl a chance!

First is my true inspiration...
Crazy Aunt Purl - the true life diary of a thirty-something, newly divorced, displaced Southern obsessive-compulsive knitter who has four cats (because nothing is sexier than a divorced woman with four cats. Laurie Perry is laugh-out-loud funny. I read her book, "Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair" first, and I wanted more. It didn't take me long to get hooked on her blog.

Apron Thrift Girl - I found this one when I was looking for blogs about thrift shopping. This girl really knows about working the thrift and yard sale scene, and she writes about other things that interest me cooking, parenting and living frugally. She takes some beautiful photographs, too.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short - frugal living, vegetarian cooking, yarn and a baby with a brain tumor. I think that says it all. She recently relocated from LA to Pennsylvania and it's uplifting to me to read about the positive changes in her life by getting out of the city. She also has an on-line knitting and craft store you can access through the blog.

Dalai Mama - I've been reading Catherine Newman's blog for years. It's probably the first blog I ever read. She was writing for Baby Center before Wondertime, and I tracked her down through her personal blog, but most of her more insightful and thoughtful entries on parenting are on Dalai Mama. She can get me all choked up sometimes.

Finally is the newest member of my blog family...
4 Reluctant Entertainers - real entertaining for real people. I only found this yesterday (thank you Apron Thrift Girl). I love to cook and we have lots of houseguests, and it's chock full of recipes. She also has beautiful photos of food, and next to eating food, I like looking at photos of it.

There! Since I don't have anything interesting to offer today, you can go read something that one of these lovely ladies has written. But come back tomorrow and hopefully, I'll be out of this slump.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bag-Free Lady

It's my goal to go bag-free as soon as I can. I've been using the cloth grocery bags for awhile now except for when I forget them at home. I mentally whip myself for my forgetfulness when I get to the store, so I'm thinking I'll learn my lesson soon and grabbing them will become part of my routine.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought three smaller cloth bags to use for other types of shopping. They were a great deal at $1 each (and one was only 50 cents because the stiffener for the bottom was missing. I plan to leave at least one of these in my car all them time. Whenever I go in a store, I need to get in the habit of taking one of those bags with me.

I've noticed some clerks at some stores (Walgreens and Borders come to mind) now ask whether or not I want a bag. I like this. It makes me think about it, and many times I don't need one. If they just stick my stuff in a bag without asking, I might be too distracted by my thoughts or by Pipsqueak to realize that I don't really need a bag for a bottle of Tylenol and a pack of gum.

My reasons for wanting to go bag-free are global and selfish. Of course, we all know we can save trees and petroleum if we don't use paper or plastic bags. Then there is the matter of bags clogging landfills, or blowing around and hurting wildlife. But there is another place that's being clogged up with these things.... MY HOME. I have piles of plastic bags that I refuse to throw in the trash, but I have to find a place to recycle them or reuse them. Pipsqueak's dance teacher cuts them into strips and knits them into tote bags. I always admire them, but I've got such a large yarn stash that it'll be a long time before I resort to plastic bags for knitting. Finally, I hate the sound of plastic bags. Sweetie calls them "sizzle bags" because the windows are down and the wind is hitting one, it sounds like it's sizzling.

I guess I will always have a need for a paper or plastic bag now and again. Something tells me that I always have a few kicking around.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Swan Song of Summer

Happy September! Or maybe I should say Bittersweet September. I am looking forward to autumn. It's beautiful here with vibrant foliage and a rosy-cheeked chill in the air, but I hate to say goodbye to summer. There are so many things I'm going to miss...
  • lazy mornings cuddling with Pipsqueak in bed and talking;
  • fresh peaches and local corn and strawberries;
  • the smell of sunscreen;
  • relaxed evenings with a cocktail on the deck before dinner;
  • fresh vegetables from the garden;
  • the sounds of frogs and crickets;
  • the smell of fresh cut grass;
  • grilled meat;
  • salads;
  • walking out of the house without outerwear;
  • riding in the car with the windows down;
  • sleeping with the windows open;
  • watching the bats and deer at dusk;
  • fireflies;
  • dragonflies;
  • thunder storms;
  • taking showers outdoors; and
  • hanging clothes to dry outside.

But there are a few things that I won't miss...

  • the smell of insect repellent;
  • mosquitoes;
  • slathering sunscreen on an impatient child;
  • bikini-line hair removal;
  • having to shave everyday;
  • having to give the dog a bath almost daily; and
  • the fact that it almost always rains as soon as I get laundry hung on the line.

Let's face it. There's a lot to like about summer, and not much to dislike.

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